Monthly Archives: May 2018

Sweetness

Sweet Boy took 
one in the chest.
Miraculous moment,
he did not die there;
instead he walked
across the street to 
do it. That’s where they
found him looking up
at the stars, eyes fixed
on the zenith.

Sweet Boy,
sang the heavens, welcome
to you. Welcome to you
from the world of difficulty
and miracles that should not
be needed. 

Another boy,
not so sweet, not so 
boyish, falls in another
street, this time cut;
he passes at once.
Rough Boy, miracle of 
miracles, rises up from the blood
on a song like
Sweet Boy’s song,

though it’s daylight 
and he’s not going to be
as missed as Sweet Boy and
it’s a different world more in need
of miracles than the first

so the song shifts in key
but they name him Sweet Boy too
because that’s a name
heaven can sing for dead boys;

and Sweet Girl dies in song,
and Sweet Man, and Sweet Woman,
and Sweeties 
who refuse the other songs
until they get their own
just as sweet as those;

miraculous songs, songs 
for the dead that do not
choose or blame, that only 
welcome and lament,
that offer sweetness to 
this bitter world.


Penance

On behalf of my left leg
and its limber history
I’d like to apologize 
for how it has kicked
and lashed out on occasion
for reasons gone dim
and mostly forgotten, which
may have seemed vital at the time
but now are nothing, nothing at all.

On behalf of my right hand
and its misshapen grasp
of importance and digging in
when things get tough
I’d like to do penance 
for those times I held fast
to what I should have released
and let go of those I should have
held close. I truly believed 
in myself when I did those things
and now that I know how untrustworthy
I was and still am, I cannot look
down at my arm without shuddering.

On behalf of my genitals,
I am sorry I listened to them 
as often as I did. On behalf
of my eyes, I am sorry I did not
see what was plain. On behalf 
of my skin, I apologize for
not paying attention to how
the hairs stood up on my neck
around some and how they did not
around others, and for how often 
I got it wrong — more often
than not, more often than seldom.

On behalf of the body, I lay myself
down and say no more. On behalf
of what the body did and did not do,
on behalf of how I drove it and dragged it
and how it took me and pushed me
in turn, I say sorry and my fault and
agree to every accusation and complaint
lodged against it and against me, 
even the ones only I know enough to make;

I see now how the body and I
colluded in this festival of indifference
and poor choices called a life, and 
on behalf of the body, on behalf
of myself within, though I know
I cannot offer enough

of what’s left of us
to justice or mercy,

I say
take what there is,

and let us be done.


Tamed

The President asserts my taming.

I was half tamed, maybe,
but that was yesterday.
Tonight I am the tamer.
This is tamer’s day.

The President asserts my taming.
I respond:
what makes you think me tamed?
A little prince said once
that to love is to tame.
I don’t smell love on you.
I don’t smell anything on you.
You’re no prince.

The President asserts my taming.
I respond:
meh, and eh, and fuck that.
I see how loosely
you hold on to fact.

I see how little you grasp
in those hands.
I hear how little of the world
you grasp.  How little you are.
If you think me tame now,
I feel how tenuous your grasp is.

The President asserts my taming.
I respond:

Prez, baby,
I want to tame your children.
Cut their hair,
cut their tongues,

take their names,
take their souls

in my arms to squeeze dry.

Been there, done that,
got the DNA test.

I’m more than the sum
of what you call tame.
Let’s see how they do.
Let’s see how you do.

Prez,
baby love,
sweet lips, 

orange sunshine,
when did your family get here again?
Mine were watching from a safe distance
when you got off the boat.
Sure as fuck your people
were tame then,
Prez.  Sure as fuck you were
cowards and hiders, cruel under
hoods, changing your names
and pretending you weren’t wild.

The President says
we have been tamed.

The President says
he’s not going to apologize

for America.

I don’t want him to apologize.

I want him tamed
as we have been tamed.

I want to tame him hard.
Tame him so hard
he forgets

who he is.

Afterward we can ask him
who needs to apologize,
see what he says,
if anything.

See what his kids say then,
if they even know.


Professional Killers

If you were a professional killer
do you think you’d imagine days without killing?
Vacations where you wouldn’t shed blood,
holidays where the poisons would stay
locked away in the customary cabinet?
Refusals to sharpen the kitchen knives
because hey, you thought this was your day off?

Because you are not a professional killer
I bet you think they think about killing
all the time.  I bet you think they think
about the wash of blood into the street
after a hit, how neck skin feels taut
under their hands.  I bet you think
it’s a different universe from that side
of the equation. Then I bet you shake off
all the thought of aberrant killing

and vote for President,
or grumble at the thought of protests
against cops who, after all, are just 
doing their jobs, who lock up their guns
when they get home,
who bounce their innocent kids

on their aching laborer’s knees. 


Everything Is Horrible

Everything is horrible
except for these apples
and these lilacs. Except for
the open eyes of this doe
who died by the side of the road
not long ago, eyes that still look 
darkly alive for the moment.

Everything is terrible
except for the wind
and the song I hear coming
from the house next door
that’s being sung by a woman
a cappella, in Spanish I think,
although the wind
is bending her syllables
and they could be in a tongue
I don’t understand
that is moving me to tears.

Everything is lost 
except the memory
of how it’s always been like this
and there have still been apples
and lilacs, and 
in death there has also been beauty,
and there have always been songs 
to puzzle the ear and churn the air
regardless of horror and terror
and in spite of having no way
to translate happiness to all at once.

Nothing is minimized
by being startled into awareness
of what is possible 
beyond the worst we can be and do.


Nearly The Last Time

Nearly the last time
I’m going to say anything
about the clocks under my skin
and how the count off rhythm they deliver
relents only when my attention
slips under water and drowns

then revives itself over and over.
Nearly the last time 
I’m bothering to explain myself
about how this body works or doesn’t.
How I slide along until I hit a stone
or seam in the road and then
derail and fall singing to the shoulder.

Nearly the last time I do much of anything
with this head limping along as it does
as I try to make sense of happy and sad and 
the complicated mouthfeel of my breath 
escaping back into the mistaken effort
to stay alive exactly as I always have.  

Nearly the last time I try to make sense
and I say nearly only because
I’m under the assumption that one day
soon I’ll run into someone who will make me
want to make sense again. They’ll ask me
how I got so far in spite of the clocks and
my runaway organs.  I’ll slow down and tell them.
how in every life there’s a Someone to capture. 

Someone you want to capture.  Someone’s a trap
I want to trap. Someone is a mistake
I was born to make one more time, a someone
called by my name I haven’t met entirely well.


The End of Dominion

One thousand years from today
there will still be equinoxes and
ocean currents. Most mountains 
will look identical from a distance —

perhaps less snow on the peaks,
perhaps glaciers will still be gone,
but the jagged horizon will be the same
and that which is highest will still be highest.

Certainly, there will be beaches. They will look
like beaches we know, although they’ll be
in different places and it may not be pleasant
to stare too deeply into what makes up the sand.

Trees, yes; flowers, yes.  Creeper bushes
and stinging nettles, yes; creeping insects
and stinging beetles, yes.  Some being will leap
from the ocean near shore. It may no longer

bear any name we’ve given it. Language
may or may not last, even if people do.
If people have survived, they will have changed.
Instead of naming what they see,

they will instead have listened
and learned what other beings
call themselves. To survive,
they will have had to learn that.


Nunc Dimittis

Our time is come.
Bloodrain washes hard

over us all. I am one
holding on against it.

Would never have believed
at a lesser age

that I would live to be drained
by existence itself of 

a hope for salvation
yet still be hanging on

from habit, not from hope.
I look for light,

see a flash here and there
which may or may not be real,

which are so distant
and diffuse 

that they serve no purpose, 
offer no direction.

I am not alone, I know. 
I hear others out there,

calling.  Maybe that’s all we are
now: solitaries, crying out, 

waiting for a light,
clawing toward flashes

we think we see, unaware of how bloodrain
has stained us beyond cleansing.  

Once I longed to pray in joy.
I longed for my tongue to form

a prayer of peace.
Now I cannot speak

one happy word.
I cannot find a thing

to praise for fear
of being betrayed

or of being named
a betrayal by others.

Once I longed for light. 
I long for nothing now

except a silent end.
No prayer, no sound,

no rain upon me.
A simple drying out

from a deluge,
then rest.


Vapid

They took everything that was already white
and compressed it into a small cake.
Utterly slick, ultimately waxy,
as small as an ironic footnote. 

Laid that bit into a chamber,
set it on flameless fire as if
they didn’t care about it, raised it
from its crushed state into the clouds, huffed it, 

blew it out into the thickest shade
of pure chalk imaginable,
then stood behind it in deep admiration
and masturbated

over their skills
at being so unlike
the entire everything
that birthed them.

And oh, the beards they grew,
and oh, the monstrous foods they devoured;
the long nights of staring into the eyes
of the disposable past

with sucking love
and hot detachment.
Leafing through the edges
for paths to the dead center;

admirable little men in their circles —
circles that nonetheless
are still just men masturbating
behind vast, thick clouds of white.


Bombs

A fire in our house,
nothing to douse it with,
no safe elsewhere to run to.

If I break a window,
outside’s there’s burning too.
No rescue, no escape.

I’m a bomb staring into flames,
preparing to burn
and if possible,

explode, level,
and extinguish this blaze.
It may be all we have.

Looking around 
for fellow bombs. 
It’s grim,

smoky, hot, hard
to see each other,
but when we do

we nod. We know
more or less what 
we are capable of.

We join hands
to make shorter work
of it, hurry it along.


The Clean World

The clean world
smelled sweet. Bully free,
dogwhistles nonexistent. 

Ground unblemished, air
unremarkably clear, water ran free
or stood stagnant of its own volition.  

The clean world
had no rules but nature’s.
Had no history — nothing.

No monuments,
no memorials, no laying
of wreaths for war. 

That said, blood was shed
routinely there, savagery
to our eyes, 

seen there as normal.
Illness, starvation, 
unequal strength, 

denied opportunities.
Disasters for some
were windfalls for others.

The clean world
was full of ordinary
splendor and squalor.

No words existed 
for either. No humans
existed to speak them,

create the laws
to enshrine them, 
arm the soldiers 

to enforce them. 
Things happened
without us and 

the only difference 
was that once
they were done,

they were done.
No one’s god
ennobled any of it.

No king made
any of it regal.  
No songs, no poems,

no carvers to
make it into art.
No memory 

of golden violence.
No one deserved it.
No one justified it.

The clean world
existed once. Long before
we did. Long before

we came along 
to filth it up with
Utopian lies about 

our ordained places in it,
and how it will come again
with us making it happen.


Grays

If you are as colorblind
in your world
as you claim to be,

why are some things there
never just black
and white to you?

Right, wrong,
up, down,
brutal, gentle;

no obvious divides
between them,
only dissolutions 

from one shade of gray
to the next 
in your world.  

There’s always
an excuse, a reason.
You stress them to us;

not all grays,
not all of them,
you say.

Are you being
the shade of gray
you want to see in your world?

Have you advertised
and marketed and sold others
on the shades of gray of your world?

Are you being
the commercial 
you want to see for your world?

You don’t understand these questions?
There’s a translation.
It’s written in red, so it may not work for you.

But it’s not my place 
to tell you how to feel.
It’s my place to feel in as many colors as I can

and then to talk about it,
to be the feeling
I want to feel in my world.

You don’t see colors. I can see that.
You don’t see me. I can see that.
Exclaiming that I’m wrong to say that?

I can hear that loud and clear.
Clear as a painting.
Loud as an explosion of paint cans

being hurled against a wall.
A gray cinder block wall.  Red paint,
blue paint, siren-crimson,

gunshot-blue.  Redlined
neighborhoods. Piss-yellow
phone calls to the police.

Your burned coffee
tastes more wrong when there is color
peeking out of your gray.

You have gray parks in your world
and they get a little greener
when there’s a suspicion of color there,

not that you would say that,
of course, as you are color blind.
Only shades of gray in your world

which looks like my world
except yours looks like a fog
settling on mine:

a red pox blanket; a sheet
pinked by blood and fire; 
a blur of blue;

a spill of scarlet — 
none of which
you can see.


The Low Grinding

That sound you hear?
The low grinding

of work, all work
from paid to unpaid to
uncompensated in any 
fashion. That sound
you hear is broken people
screaming or more likely
offering up a low graveled
growl as they are
pulverized.  That sound
you hear when you lean in close
is the valves of a fatty heart,
the bones of a sinking ship,
the rush of sugarblood,
the tendons slapping back
a little less every time, and 
the invisible sobbing of the 
knowing, lost brain as it 
softens and hollows. 

Repeat a million, a hundred million,
a billion times and more 
and how the grinding rises
in volume and as it does
how it drowns and muffles 
joy and contentment in its
blanket of desperate survival,
and how soon do we get to call it
an anthem for the low ground,
the national song of the country
of brute living, this place of 
mistake and reinforced mistake
and unintended consequences 
becoming canon and policy,
providing a simple,
dishonest answer to 
the disingenuous query,
“Is this normal?” “I dunno,
I just work here. I guess
this is normal. I can’t imagine
anything else.”


Problematic

Originally posted 10/22/2015; revised, 4/2016; revised again, 5/8/2016.

I should burn this church
without mourning.
I light it, but I cannot smile while I do.

I have seen too often how much
of the holy I know was made by devils
that nothing’s shining now under the sun.

Felled trees row upon row,
and no one seems
to have heard a thing.

I should have known.
Should have been listening all along
for the sound of clear cutting.

Evil disguised itself
as birdsong and brook,
as hymns to the betrayed sun.

All the holy I know is devils’ work,
and it falls upon me now
with a roar like a deadfall.

I’m sorry, but I do mourn its passing
a little. I mourn it as it falls upon me.
I’m sorry for mourning,

but I do, even as I see
the need for this reckoning,
even as I join in a call for it.

Once-honored voices
have failed so miserably
at living professed truth

yet they are part of what I am, 
as is now my disgust 
at how I have loved them; 

as is my confusion 
at how can still I love them
knowing what I know.

I am problematic
as a result
of this imperfection;

unlovable,
confused,
on fire.


White Dog

Imagine yourself 
as a sacred object — 
ravenous white dog,
pink tinged opening
to the Other.

Your open mouth.
Your stance above the plate
from which you feed, which is
the whole expanse.

You take all the offerings
as your due. Over time
you are used to absorbing
everything

and then suddenly
you are called on it.

No, you say, this is not
at all what I want, I want to
love the entire world.  I want 
to make it over and fill it 
with my love. All these

offerings, so particular, so
personal, I never asked for 
and I only take what
is given freely. 

You keep feeding and
wondering why no one thinks
you’re telling the truth.

It is possible they’ve heard it before,
of course.  It is possible 
they’ve run up against a dog like you
before — you look friendly enough
until they take you away
from your feeding
and the flow stops

and then you turn
despite your protestations
and your professed love of all

and you bite.  Admit it,
you bite. It’s what a starving dog
does no matter how much
it’s been fattened.  When you’re threatened
you bite and when you’re hungry
you bite and when you’re
no longer on top
or feel you’re being challenged
you bite,

and the bitten step back.
They know you.  
They know your bark and 
your bite,

and they know which one
to believe.